2023 Men’s All-Mountain West Skis

2023 Men’s All-Mountain West Skis

If there is a single, do-it-all ski – particularly for western, big-mountain skiing – it no doubt lives in this category.  The reason is simple: up to this girth (95mm-100mm), these relatively wide skis don’t feel fat underfoot, so they ride the groom like a Frontside ski yet provide as much flotation in powder as possible without the width being a negative when the powder is gone.  Manufacturers recognize the importance of this genre and therefore give it their very best effort, creating a rich array of options for the high performance skier.  It’s remarkable that one category can contain so many different sensations and almost every ski is really, really good.   Pay attention to this category, Dear Reader, for if you don’t already own an All-Mountain West ski, you will.

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A mere 15 years ago we would have choked on these words, as skis 100mm underfoot then were niche models positioned as ideal for Alaskan heli-guides. The evolution that has taken place in the interim was triggered by the arrival of the Völkl Mantra in 2006, at first in the slightly more svelte waist width of 94mm. As with most Völkls made for men, then as now, there was no skimping on the quality of the construction: the Mantra was a rich, powerful ski right out of the chute. It performed like a soft GS race ski, but in a width that tracked through powder like the blitzkrieg, taking no prisoners. It quickly found a following due to Völkl’s already swollen ranks of faithful adherents, attracting the attention of every other major brand. (Nothing engenders a wave of imitators quite like creating a new niche with a high price tag.)

Driving the success of this genre is the eternal hope that part of the do-it-all equation will be a generous dose of fresh, deep powder. If you eliminate powder, and its evil twin, crud, from the mix of conditions in which you’ll use the ski, there’s no compelling reason to increase the ski’s flotation. But unless you live at the base of the ski resort, you can’t be sure what you’ll encounter on a big mountain; if a pocket of powder suddenly becomes available, wouldn’t you rather be on a ski that will embrace the situation? This is the mentality that has persuaded an increasingly large percentage of the market to gravitate to this genre.

Most, if not all, print-published ski tests would include under the All-Mountain West heading skis up to 110mm underfoot. Their inclusion is, in part, driven by the manufacturers, who want to increase the number of star products in this critical genre. But we believe bundling models on either side of the 100mm divide ignores a vital distinguishing trait: narrower skis put less strain on the skier in every condition but powder/crud. Sure, young bucks who log countless miles on western slopes use 108’s (and wider) as their everyday ski, God bless them. But we feel that the skis between 101 and 113mm underfoot should be treated as Big Mountain models that transparently sacrifice certain hard snow behaviors to achieve greater flotation – and presumed ease – in unbroken snow.

Within any genre there are skis that are curl-in-your-lap pussycats – our Finesse Favorites – and skis that are relentless fall-line predators, which we collect into our Power Favorites. The key virtue of the former is they improve ease and terrain access for less aggressive, lighter weight or lower skill skiers. The archetypical trait of the Power posse is they are utterly unflappable no matter where you go or how fast you go once you get there.

There isn’t a line of copy in any ski supplier’s brochure that would suggest their All-Mountain West ski possesses a single limitation, but this untempered enthusiasm conveniently overlooks a critical factor, namely the prospective skier’s skill level.

To be brief, anyone who would not classify himself or herself as advanced is looking behind the wrong door. To be less brief, if you don’t regularly tip the ski to a high edge angle, if you don’t ski with your feet extended away from your body, if you don’t have separation between the central angle of your upper body and the median that runs from your hips to your feet, if you don’t ski comfortably at speed, then you should look for a Frontside ski that will help you develop these skills.

The problem is that if a lower-skill skier acquires a model with a 100mm waist too early in his/her development, forward progress will freeze, slow down or even regress as the wider ski proves too cumbersome to tilt. The skier will probably feel better in powder and crud, but that’s about the extent of the benefits.

The 2023 Men’s All-Mountain West Field

All unisex All-Mountain West models, whether new or returning, biased towards Power or Finesse properties, lightweight or burly, strive to serve two masters by providing enough surface area to facilitate off-piste skiing while retaining basic carving skills for when the off-trail is off-limits. AMW Finesse models focus on making off-road terrain easier to tame for less aggressive skiers, while Recommended Power skis come alive at higher revs.  Once infused with speed, the top Power skis don’t so much float over choppy terrain as demolish it.

Make no mistake about it, the tone of the All-Mountain West field is set by a quartet of Power skis that have established a sustained level of excellence for roughly a decade: the Blizzard Bonafide 97, Nordica Enforcer 100, Stormrider 95 and the most recent number one in the genre, Völkl’s M6 Mantra. What we wrote here last year remains true: no other category exerts as strong an influence on a brand’s image, in part because the best skiers on a given (most likely western U.S.) mountain most likely ride an AMW model as their daily driver.  Weak reeds need not apply.

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With the top of the genre dominated by Power skis, the opportunity to penetrate the market lies in making a Finesse ski that can hold its own with the big boys, and that’s where every new initiative was aimed in 2023.  Before getting down to details, we should point out that were half as many new AMW models this year as last, which means that most of the genre is comprised of unchanged product, and most of the alterations have been modest.

The biggest improvement award goes to the K2 Mindbender 99 Ti, where changes to the size and shape of its Titanal Y-Beam elevated it from also-ran to top dog for Finesse properties.   All Head did to upgrade the Kore 99 was ladle on a layer of urethane, but its effect was far more than cosmetic, turning an already fine ski into the best non-metal ski on the mountain. Blizzard did even less to the Bonafide 97, merely shaving a skosh off its TrueBlend core, but the effect was similar: the 2023 Bonnie is indeed responsive to a lighter touch. Fischer made the most extensive line overhaul, combining the character traits of its retiring Ranger 99 Ti and 102 FR into the Ranger 96.

Power Picks: All-Condition Chargers

Not all the best skiers on big mountains use All-Mountain West skis as their everyday ski, but the ones that do are probably on one of our Power Picks. It’s not that less skilled skiers can’t handle them if sized appropriately, but these skis aren’t meant to mosey down the mountain. They’re built to batter down the stiffest crud, an approach that only works if the throttle is open. If you’re an expert skier and you haven’t tried one of these models yet, don’t let another season go by without doing so. To paraphrase the late, great Warren Miller, if you don’t do it this year, you’ll be another year older when you do.

To inject a personal note into the proceedings, I adhere to my own advice, choosing an All-Mountain West Power ski as my daily driver. If you’re a western skier who logs more than 30 days a season and charges the fall line, you probably already have one of these models. If you don’t, get one.

Völkl M6 Mantra


Any time a brand introduces a fundamentally new technology, it takes a couple of years to learn how to optimize it. After Völkl engineers had a few seasons to tinker with Titanal Frame, testing countless iterations, they found a way not only to perfect the benefits of Titanal Frame, but to magnify its virtues with a couple of complementary components. The marriage of Tailored Titanal Frame with 3D Radius Sidecut and Tailored Carbon Tips created a new benchmark for the genre, that will, in all probability, soon be recognized as one of the greatest all-terrain skis of all time.

The key to Titanal Frame is breaking what is normally a uniform topsheet of metal into three sections.  The fore and aft sections of Titanal are shaped like an elongated “U”, with metal concentrated around the perimeter. The alu alloy here is .7mm thick, much thicker than usual, which accentuates the tip and tail’s connection to the snow, somewhat counterintuitive for an all-terrain ski.

Read the full review here

Blizzard Bonafide 97

The Blizzard Bonafide has been at or near the top of our All-Mountain West rankings since it burst on the scene over a decade ago. While it’s undergone four or five tweaks since its debut, its enduring excellence is due primarily to what hasn’t changed: the original Flipcore construction that removes all stress from the rocker/camber transition.  As soon as the ski is pressured, the transition zone disappears and the full length of the ski finds the snow.  A Bonafide feels engaged from tip to tail because it is.  This is the foundational reason for its sustained success. The Bonafide came out of the chute so well made that the biggest challenge its designers faced was figuring out how to fix something that wasn’t broken.

While there are worse problems to have, being known as an experts-only ski is a concern nonetheless, one Blizzard addressed last year with the introduction of the TrueBlend core.

Read the full review here


Nordica Enforcer 100

While there are no statistics I can point to substantiate my argument, I would contend that the Enforcer 100 is the most powerful model in the All-Mountain West pantheon. It earns this distinction due to an extra-high camber line that begins to load with stored energy from the moment you stand on it. Nordica alleges that the Enforcer 100 surrenders half of its baseline to rocker: 30% in the front and 20% of the rear running surface are pulled off the snow at one of the most aggressive angles in the genre. Yet despite this inherent loss of snow contact, the Enforcer 100 doesn’t ski “loose,” not at all.

One reason the early vintage Enforcer 100’s were so stout is that, due to molding limitations, all sizes used the same baseline.  This was one of the major changes introduced just two years ago: each size of the current Enforcer 100 has a unique baseline, sidecut and core profile.

Read the full review here

Kästle MX98

 The MX98 is an outlier in the All-Mountain West genre, the only ski in the category that headlines a family of fully cambered carving skis. Its only concession to the requirements of off-trail travel is a long (270mm) front rocker that’s so gradual it’s imperceptible. Given that its classic, wood (silver fir and poplar), fiberglass and Titanal (.5mm sheets) core isn’t particularly lightweight, how can it ski comparably to an armada of competitors with double-rockered baselines and lighter weight constructions?

Well, it doesn’t. It behaves differently from most (not all) of its competition in how well it maintains snow contact. What’s remarkable is how well this translates to the irregularity of off-trail skiing. While the MX98 can float in fresh snow, it’s not bobbing on the top as much as it is trenching through whatever lies ahead, regardless of depth or consistency.

Read the full review here

Stockli Stormrider 95

 The one condition that separates the best All-Mountain West skis from the merely excellent is crud. It’s the dream of perpetual powder that drives the category – there’s no other reason to have a ski this wide – but the reality is uncut powder is over and done within the first few minutes after any big mountain’s opening bell. Then you have to navigate a wildly variable condition that continues to deteriorate hour by hour. The skis no longer have a clean surface to plane over and the tracked–up terrain tugs them in multi-axis directions. The only way to prevail is to gun it, which on a weak reed will feel like very bad advice.

The Stöckli Stormrider 95 gets it. It knows that the winning strategy is to pummel crud into submission. You don’t have to pick a line, for the Stormrider 95 will create its own path through the rubble. All the pilot has to do is move his feet across the fall line and otherwise remain calm, poised and aimed downhill.

Not everyone is constitutionally equipped for this exercise. If the idea of blazing down a 40-degree pitch covered in total crap sounds more insane than idyllic, there are plenty of Finesse skis in the AMW genre to serve you. But for those who revel in busting through wind berms, there’s only a fistful of models that feel comfortable in the chaos of high-speed crud skiing. The Stormrider 95 is among the best in the world at this game.

Read the full review here


Salomon Stance 96

One way to grok the role played by the Stance 96 in Salomon’s line is to look at its counterpart in Salomon’s QST collection, the QST 98.  Earlier versions of this QST included on-trail features like super-wide tips and multiple doses of shock-dampening fibers, but the latest QST 98 has a clear bias for off-trail conditions.  Salomon can afford to tilt the QST towards side-of-the-trail conditions because the Stance 96 is so rock-solid on groomers.

Vis-a-vis its competition from other brands, the Stance 96 takes dead aim at the wood-and-Titanal chargers from Blizzard, Nordica, Kastle and Stöckli.  If you want to play with big boys, you have to use the same materials, so the Stance 96 sandwiches its poplar core with laminates of Titanal and carbon-flax fiber (CF/X), a double dose of dampeners that keep the Stance 96 planted on the planet.

Read the full review here

Dynastar M-Pro 99

Just two seasons ago, Dynastar radically altered its all-mountain offering, replacing the long-in-the-tooth Cham/Legend design with the M-Pro series.  The M-Pro collection consists of four models, that roughly parallel the ability hierarchy of novice (M-Pro 84), intermediate (M-Pro 90), advanced (M-Pro 99) and pro athlete (M-Pro 108 Ti F-Team).

The M-Pro 99 is clearly the sweetspot in the series, with more Titanal in its guts and a more connected-to-the-snow baseline. While there’s metal in its make-up, it’s a relatively mild dose, so the M-Pro 99 Ti doesn’t behave like a typical Austrian wood-and-metal sandwich. It’s lighter and looser, with a baseline and build that are biased to off-trail conditions. It performs best when the surface isn’t too slick, so it has something to push against and improve contact along the length of the ski.

Read the full review here

Kästle FX96 Ti

Kastle fans everywhere can rejoice now that the latest FX series has been restored to something like its original self, with twin Titanal laminates around a poplar, beech and Paulownia core. Compared to the last FX flagship, the new FX96 Ti is a slightly heavier ski, but the added stability in all conditions has doubled its performance ceiling, well worth the roughly 50 extra grams.

With the FX96 Ti returned to something closer to its original self, its performance ceiling has doubled, leaving little doubt that, within the new FX family, the FX96 Ti is the star product. Not surprisingly, it’s quicker on and off the edge than the plumper FX106 Ti, but what is eyebrow-raising is it feels more tenacious on edge and responsive off it than its narrower sibling, the FX86 Ti. A peek at its test results confirms its off-piste predilections, as its score for Drift out-points its edging accuracy in every phase of the turn.

Read the full review here

Atomic Maverick 100 Ti

 In the 2018/19 season, Atomic dove into the deep end of the Lighter is Better pool, emerging with Pro Lite, a skeletal construction that sought to trim mass using all the means at the R&D department’s disposal.

Launched just last year, Atomic’s Maverick and Maven (for women) series have bid aloha to Pro Lite, returning to a classic, elementary construction that Atomic could build in its sleep: an all-poplar core encased in top and bottom sheets of fiberglass and either Titanal (.4mm) or carbon, depending on the model.  The emphasis on lightweight hasn’t been jettisoned, but it has taken a back seat to performance fundamentals.

The Maverick 100 Ti’s special sauce is the combined effect of its double-rockered baseline (25/60/15), tapered tip and unique HRZN Tech Tip that’s rockered on both axes. Atomic calls this combo the ski’s Flow Profile, a good term for how a ski meets the snow.

Read the full review here

Liberty evolv 100

Small-batch producers like Liberty have a tough row to hoe. Aside from zero name recognition, they have to either work with an established factory or try to start their own facility, both of which have their disadvantages. Their other two biggest problems are how to differentiate themselves from the pack and thereby generate a sense of mission when it’s highly unlikely they’ll have unique materials or processes, and how to make a consistent product when limited demand dictates they work in short production runs.

Liberty broke from the boutique brand pack with Vertical Metal Technology (VMT). As is often the case with new technologies, Liberty spent a few years trying to find the best formula for VMT’s deployment, settling last season on a three-struct configuration in its all-mountain evolv series.  It’s a very rich and sophisticated construction that rises well above the norm among indie brands.

Read the full review here

Finesse Favorites: All-Terrain Access for All

The main reason to acquire an All-Mountain West ski is to get the widest ski possible you can use as an everyday ride. The reason you want the widest ski is so you can take it into powder and what’s left of powder between storms.  To make that all-terrain access as effortless as possible, you want one of our Finesse Favorites.

The price of off-trail success can be some stability at high speed on hard snow, but this shouldn’t be a concern for advanced skiers who rarely reach the top end of the recreational speed range. When kept within their comfort zone – mid-radius turns at moderate speeds – our Finesse Favorites can motor through any terrain you care to traverse.

K2 Mindbender 99 Ti

Of all the new models introduced this season, K2’s Mindbender 99 Ti took by far the greatest leap up in our standings, all the way to the top of our Finesse Favorites.  But it wasn’t its Finesse properties per se that drove its across-the-board improvement, but the new Mindbender 99 Ti’s vastly enhanced Power properties.  When a ski is calmer on edge on hard snow, it improves the overall impression of forgiveness and ease as the skier doesn’t have to struggle to stay in balance. So, the new Mindbender 99 Ti comes off as a kinder, gentler ski precisely because it’s a much better Power ski than its predecessor.

Driving the 2023 Mindbender 99 Ti’s ascension to the top rung of the Finesse ladder is a re-design of the ski’s signature feature, Titanal Y-Beam. It’s still shaped like a futuristic slingshot, with the forks of the yoke running up each side of the forebody, a wall-to-wall stretch underfoot and a centered tail section.

Read the full review here

Head Kore 99

Just last season, Head invigorated its Kore series by making a handful of product changes that palpably improved every Kore model’s performance. You’d think the Austrian brand would rest on its considerable laurels, but it elected to add a urethane topcoat – like frosting on the proverbial cake – to help protect the top and sides from nicks and scratches. Lo, and behold, the addition of an end-to-end dampening layer gave the new Kores a little extra cush to their ski/snow connection, which showed up in the guise of slightly improved scores for both Finesse and Power properties.

Underneath the new urethane topsheet the 2023 Kore 99 is the same ski, with the same behavior profile, that knocked our collective socks last year. The Kore 99, then and now, epitomizes what makes Head’s unique Kore construction so well adapted to irregular, off-trail conditions without compromising its capacity for holding on hard snow.

Read the full review here

Fischer Ranger 96

For the past several seasons, Fischer has subdivided its Ranger family of off-trail models into two distinct clans, indicated by their suffixes: Ti, for those with metal in the mix, and FR, for those without.  Like the Ti’s of yesteryear, there’s metal in the new Rangers, just not as much as before.  The metal is confined to the area underfoot, and while there are some changes in how the metal part is configured across the line, none possess enough Titanal to suppress the loose extremities that appealed to FR fans. Because the metal is mostly underfoot, the tip and tail feel lighter, easier to pivot sideways and generally more genial than a ski with tip-to-tail Ti laminates.

Given that its double-rockered baseline is biased towards soft snow that gives the tip and tail something to push against, the Ranger 96 is more at home off-trail than on.

Read the full review here

Kästle ZX100

Kästle’s MSRP’s hover near the peak of the retail pricing mountain, where the air is so thin only a few brands can survive in it.  The relatively new Czech ownership wants to expand the line by dropping a few experimental models down to a lower altitude, where the people, particularly less affluent younger people, can afford to acquire them.

Hence the ‘Z” in its name, a reference to Gen Z, otherwise known as young adults.  The first foray in this direction was the ZX108, a non-metal, robustly rockered Big Mountain model with surprising moxie, introduced just last year. The ZX100 is its first offspring, with a retail tag of $799, a pittance for a Kästle and right in line with the rest of the market.

The low price wouldn’t be worth much if the ski couldn’t cut it, but the ZX100 is a knockout, particularly in the softer snow it’s made for.

Read the full review here

Dynastar M-Free 99

The simplest way to characterize the new M-Free 99 from Dynastar is it’s a narrow Powder ski, a genre that’s otherwise populated by models over 113mm underfoot, compared to this M-Free’s 99mm.  In groomed conditions, its tip and tail have nothing to do except dangle above the snow surface, waiting to be called into action. Considering how loose its extremities are, it’s cool, calm and collected underfoot, moving edge to edge in medium-radius turns without drawing attention to the fact that the tip and tail are on sabbatical.

Size selection is always important; with the M-Free 99, it’s critical.  The 178cm length isn’t just a scaled-down 186cm, as each length goes through its own development process. To support the strong, fall-line crud skier who is the M-Free 99’s most probable partner, the 186cm length is a must, as it provides a longer, more stable mid-section to distribute a big boy’s pressure and liberate his aggressive instincts.

Read the full review here

Atomic Bent Chetler 100

To give you an idea of what a steal the Bent Chetler 100 was when it was introduced four years ago, Atomic understandably raised its retail price by $100 a year later, and it was still the best value in the category. But the Bent Chetler 100 is more than just a good deal; it’s a wonderfully versatile ski that’s as easy to ski in off-trail conditions as any AMW model at any price.

The key to the Bent Chetler 100’s charms is its Horizon Tech tip and tail which are rockered on both axes.  By crowning its extremities, the littler Chetler feels like it can drift in any direction on a whim without losing control of trajectory.  When in its element, it’s the epitome of ease, rolling over terrain like a spatula over icing.

The Bent Chetler 100 is all about freedom of expression rather than the tyranny of technical turns.  If you evaluate the Bent Chetler 100 for what it does rather than what it isn’t meant to do, it’s an all-star in a league of its own.

Read the full review here